Thursday, 19 January 2012

Norway almost as deeply integrated in the EU as the UK

When we think about Norway and the European Union, Britain tends to surface. But what is Norway's EU relationship in reality?

Media shortcut

EurActiv alerted me to the publication of the study on future EU relations of Norway. The article presents the current position of Norway as a member of the European Economic Area (and member of the European Free Trade Associaiton EFTA), as well as the main findings and quotes from Norwegian experts.

When Kirsty Hughes offers the main points on BBC News, Britain crops up early on:

"We are almost as deeply integrated as the UK," says report committee chairman Prof Fredrik Sejersted.

Views and News from Norway contribute with an assessment of the opinion climate in the country, and predict that the current relationship will continue with little change.

Official information

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers a press release about the review of Norway's agreements with the European Union. The study forms the basis for a white paper on EU relations to be published later this year, says foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Chapter 1 (17 pages) of the massive report Outside and Inside – Norway's agreements with the European Union (Official Norwegian Reports 2012:2) is available in English. It offers and introduction, the main messages and an overview.

Readers of Norwegian are able to find the relationship explored in painstaking detail in the original, which runs to 911 pages including the annexes:

Utenfor og innenfor – Norges avtaler med EU (NOU Norges offentlige utredninger 2012:2, 17. januar 2012)

Some thoughts

In the wake of the national leaders' inability to solve the crisis in the eurozone, between seven and eight Norwegians out of ten are now opposed to EU membership. Thus, Norway seems set to continue the necessary ties with a huge democratic deficit.

The EU accession of Norway's EEA companion Iceland (some EU views here) would strain the agreement on the European Economic Area, but I would be astonished if the population of Iceland actually decided to join in the upcoming referendum even if the negotiations lead to an agreement.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Those of you who are interested in the European online public space, as well the issues of information and propaganda from the institutions of the European Union, should read Mathew Lowry's blog article about an alternative overaching EU communication strategy.